The Scripture reading this morning is one most of us have read over and over again. Sometimes our familiarity can prevent us from seeing and hearing something new. When this happens, I find that art can help shed some new light on my own tired interpretations. This week as I prepared for our time together in worship, I found that to be true.
Dutch artist, Rembrandt, painted this piece called The Return of the Prodigal Son. Some have called it the mark of his own spiritual homecoming. He was fascinated by the hands of the father as they laid upon the back of the son who was returning home.
Spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen wrote a whole book about the parable (Luke’s Gospel) and the painting (Rembrandt), which also helps us find new ways to enter into the story. In that book he writes, “Rembrandt is as much the elder son of the parable as he is the younger. When, during the last years of his life, he painted both sons in his Return of the Prodigal Son, he had lived a life in which neither the lostness of the younger son nor the lostness of the elder son was alien to him. Both needed healing and forgiveness. Both needed to come home. Both needed the embrace of a forgiving father. But from the story itself, as well as from Rembrandt’s painting, it is clear that the hardest conversion to go through is the conversion of the one who stayed home.” (Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 65-66)
As we study scripture together today and consider how God is speaking to us through this oh so familiar parable, I wonder which child we are… and what kind of conversion awaits?